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  • Einar Páll Svavarsson

Reykjavík city the capital of Iceland

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

Reykjavík, with its 10 districts, is the capital of Iceland. It is one of the most exciting places to visit if you are in Iceland. I can confirm this because I have lived in Reykjavík for most of my life and I love the city. I have also lived in Toronto in Canada and San Diego in California for many years, so I have a measure of comparison. Although labeled as a city, it is more like a small town when measured by population or other indicators for towns and cities in comparison with cities around the globe.


How many people live in Reykjavík?

Reykjavík City Hall
City Hall in Reykjavík by the pond

The population of Reykjavík in January of 2021 was approximately 133.000, similar to a small town or a village in the US or Europe. On the other hand, Reykjavík has a character that is more like a large city on the scale of activity, the number of restaurants and hotels, the culture, the initiative, as well as the adventure. Reykjavík thrives in all kinds of cultural activities. It is a city of live music, conferences, restaurants, museums, shopping, art, design, festivals, nightlife, and much more all year round. It is a beautiful city to visit and a great city to live in. It is a place you don't want to miss if you visit Iceland. It is hard not to visit Reykjavík because of its closeness to the international airport in Keflavík, and it is a great place to begin your tour.


Reykjavík has been an important place in Iceland from the time of settlement

Skólavörðustígur street in Reykjavík
Skólavörðustígur shopping street in Reykjavík

The city was also one of the first places of settlement in Iceland in the 9th century. Ingólfur Arnarson, the first Viking to take up permanent residence in Iceland, flooded his honorary pillars from his ceremonial chair to help the Pagan gods, Óðinn, Thor, Freyja, and other interesting characters, who were part of his religion, guide him to his permanent home in the new and untouched land, Iceland. Apparently, the gods landed the pillars in Reykjavík, and this is where Arnarson settled. Reykjavík has been an inseparable part of Icelandic history ever since. It is one of the most prominent places in Iceland and one of the most important historical and geographical landmarks. When in Reykjavík, you should check out the harbor and waterfront as well as walk the Sculpture & Shore Walk along the northern shore from Harpa Conference Center to Höfði House. You should also check out Hallgrímskirkja Church, a famous landmark, that has a statue of Leif Ericson, the man who discovered America, in front of the church. You should also check out Perlan, the geothermal dome. For shopping, you should take a stroll on Laugavegur and Skolavörðustgur, where you will find modern designs and a different city center.


The center of Iceland


Alþingi parliment in Iceland
Democracy and freedom of expression go hand in hand, and Icelanders don't hesitate to express their discontent about policies and actions of the government in front of the parliament, Alþingi

The city was also one of the first places of settlement in Iceland in the 9th century. Ingólfur Arnarson, the first Viking to take up permanent residence in Iceland, flooded his honorary pillars from his ceremonial chair to help the Pagan gods, Óðinn, Thor, Freyja, and other interesting characters, who were part of his religion, guide him to his permanent home in the new and untouched land, Iceland. Apparently, the gods landed the pillars in Reykjavík, and this is where Arnarson settled. Reykjavík has been an inseparable part of Icelandic history ever since. It is one of the most prominent places in Iceland and one of the most important historical and geographical landmarks. When in Reykjavík, you should check out the harbor and waterfront as well as walk the Sculpture & Shore Walk along the northern shore from Harpa Conference Center to Höfði House. You should also check out Hallgrímskirkja Church, a famous landmark, that has a statue of Leif Ericson, the man who discovered America, in front of the church. You should also check out Perlan, the geothermal dome. For shopping, you should take a stroll on Laugavegur and Skolavörðustgur, where you will find modern designs and a different city center.


In and near the city center, there is a great selection of accommodation ranging from luxury apartments to wonderful hotels. Like in any city, staying near the center is a good choice for those who would like to take walks in the city or spend some part of the Iceland tour shopping. Also, for those who wish to enjoy a great selection of top restaurants, the flora of good restaurants and places to dine in Reykjavík is comparable to much larger cities. Although Iceland has a very poor food tradition for many reasons, today, on the one hand, we have great raw material of fish, lamb and lettuce that we grow in greenhouses, and outstanding chefs on the other—a combination that just can’t go wrong.


Reykjavík districts

Harpa concert and conference centre in Reykjavík
Harpa concert hall and conference center in Reykjavík in the City Center

For anyone coming to Reykjavík, it is good to know the districts, where they are with reference to the center and how they have developed. Each district bears characteristics from the time it was developed and established—ranging from Vesturbær and the city center in the western part to the latest development in Grafarholt in the eastern part of the city.


It is symbolic that Reykjavík has a rural district, Kjalarnes, given its nature and the short time that Iceland was completely an agricultural society. Here, people still have farms and agriculture. Reykjavík is also a city that offers a great selection of services to its residents. In most neighborhoods, you will find schools, sports centers, cultural centers, sports clubs, and basic services. You will also find accommodation and restaurants or cafés. All districts are peaceful with family-oriented lifestyles and neighborhoods.


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